When you are an introvert, sometimes it seems as if the world is built for extroverts. From job advertisements that desire a “self-starter” who “shows initiative”, to praise for striking up conversations effortlessly with the charisma of a “social butterfly” or a “good wingman”. Our professional and personal lives are rewarded for taking charge. For introverts, we may even end up feeling the need to fake it in order to fit in and earn the merits of success. The pressure to navigate these barriers and societal expectations can be heavy. Sometimes, they can affect our mental health.
There is a common misconception that introverts don’t like socializing or they are shy. Introverts above all know this! A more accurate assessment is that introverts value substance and meaning in their relationships, and therefore, they find small talk to be a drain. Introverts don’t view socialization as a way to pass the time. Instead, they desire to form intimate connections – and they do. Introverts tend to observe and be thoughtful in how they relate to others. They ask questions to get to know a person better and they give space for others to share about themselves. They may be selective in who they bring into their lives, but their carefulness often makes for committed friendships with friends they can trust and depend on.
Introverts take longer to process information because they are taking in a lot of data at once. This means it may take them longer to make decisions or finish projects, but the quality of their efforts are not spared. Introverts also process information internally, while extroverts tend to process information interactively. Extroverts’ tendency toward external processing can sometimes mean they interrupt or jump ahead, leaving others (often introverts) feeling overpowered and their ideas unacknowledged.
According to brain studies, extroverts seem to have a shorter pathway of sensory information processing, leading them to make quick inferences. The brains of introverts on the other hand seem to incorporate more areas of the brain for more holistic thinking. They also have more gray matter than extroverts, which is used for abstract thought and decision making. So then, the processing time of introverted brains may be a bit longer and produce more nuanced explanations.
Introverts tend to think before they speak. They take in what another person is saying and place careful attention on how they might respond. Introverts have great active listening skills. They don’t speak to be heard. Rather, they respond to seek that they’ve first understood, and then can contribute relevant ideas. Introverts also tend to be intrinsically motivated and so they tend to be able to find direction rather well even when things are uncertain. Their holistic thinking may also mean that they can manage their emotions well, since they are taking in a lot of information about the situation and context.
You’ll hear that introverts often need time to recharge their social battery after engaging with others for a long time. Researchers have found that this may be related to the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Dopamine is the reward chemical – it guides our attention and modulates how we view rewards. Since introverts’ dopamine levels may be lower when socializing, they are less likely to feel a rush of accomplishment after being with a group and so, naturally may want to spend some time alone to unwind and recharge.
Understanding your temperament and the way your brain processes best, may help you appreciate your strengths for what they are and thrive as an introvert. While extraversion is often noticed first, like the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, that’s not to say that the strengths of introverts are unappreciated. In fact, there are many areas of the workplace where introversion may shine. For instance, their thoughtfulness, great listening skills, and ability to find quality solutions often make introverts exceptional leaders and managers.
If you struggle with self-doubt and burnout as an introvert, don’t let yourself suffer alone. Contact our care team today. We are here to help you thrive as an introvert.